Thursday, 24 June 2021

part 13 : Forbidden Love

"Do you like my son Riddhima?"

The question stopped Riddhima in her tracks. She was in the kitchen with Sunita preparing breakfast. Today was a public holiday, which meant a day of relaxation at home. She was getting breakfast ready for Sunny and Armaan when Sunita posed the dangerous question. Or rather dropped the bomb. Now, how was she supposed to answer thisquestion? Riddhima decided to play the ignorant.

"umm..Which son mommiji. Armaan? Of course I like him. He's like my best friend," she replied pretending to continue her work.

"Well. I know you are best friends. I was wondering if you liked him as more than just friends?" Sunita could not let this chance slip by.

They had been surrounded by everyone all through the weekend giving her no chance to have the all important discussion with Riddhima. But it had given her the opportunity to observe Riddhima and Armaan. Armaan, she noticed pretended to ignore Riddhima when she was with him but his eyes would search for her whenever she was absent. Riddhima's eyes drank in his presence thirstily when she thought no one was looking. The special looks, coupled with her shyness and her blushing all indicated to one thing. And Sunita wondered how she had missed it. How breathless Riddhima was in Armaan's presence or how her hands trembled if they accidentally touched his. Sunita had guessed to Riddhima's state of mind, or rather heart, but she needed it confirmed from the horse's mouth. Hence the question. But this again had made Riddhima very shy. Instead of answering, she was focusing even harder at making parathas.

"Do you Riddhima?" Sunita asked again touching her shoulder. Riddhima stopped all her pretense and looked up at Sunita. Sunita's eyes were bekoning her to share all her deepest secrets with her. She was imploring for Riddhima to tell her the words that she wanted to hear. And suddenly, Riddhima couldn't hold it in anymore. All the emotions, all the feelings and frustrations of the past 2 and half years came rushing to her.

"I DO!" she affirmed, looking down again. Well, her shyness was natural, after all she had just told a mother that she liked her son. While looking down though, she missed the look of ecstacy overflowing on Sunita's face. She grabbed Riddhima by both her arms and turned her towards herself.

"For real? You actually do love Armaan?" Sunita asked again, unable to believe that her dream might actually come true. Riddhima nodded shyly and was engulfed in a bear hug by Sunita.

"Oh beta, you have no idea how happy I am to hear that! I have wanted for the two of you to be together for a long time!"

Riddhima came out of the bear hug very much shocked. Sunita had wanted Armaan to be with her? She actually approved of her? It was all too overwhelming for Riddhima. Tears of happiness came falling out of her eyes. But then a sudden thought stopped her contentment.

"But mommiji, Nikita. I thought you would never want her replaced!" Riddhima stated.

"No beta. This is not about replacing Nikita. She was a very special woman who can never be replaced. And I don't want you to replace her either. You are very very special in your own way and therefore you don't need to take someone else's place. You can never be the second best beta because, in my son's and grand son's life, you are their everything. And you have no idea how happy I am to hear that you like him. I did have my suspicions, but I am soo very glad
to have them confirmed!" Sunita rattled on happily while Riddhima looked in wonder. Sunita's enthusiasm made her feel as if her long unfulfilled dream could be fulfilled. Could she be lucky enough to gain Armaan's love. But then she remembered, it didn't matter that Sunita approved. The main thing was Armaan's feelings and as far as she could tell, he felt nothing for her.

"Mommiji. But Armaan doesn't feel the same way as I do. He only thinks of me as a friend. So there's really no point in wishing for something that cannot happen. He can never love someone other than Nikita," Riddhima added with an all-familiar sense of defeat and envy. She had promised herself that she'll never be jealous or envious of Nikita and Armaan,  but she was only human. She had trampled those feelings down and never thought of them, lest they went to extreme. But still traces of envy remained with her.

"Well, I have to disagree with you on that point darling." Sunita said and Riddhima's head shot up in attention. At Riddhima's response, Sunita nodded with a smile. "Yes. I have been noticing the two of you. He watches you like a hawk when he thinks no one is looking. Even though he ignores you when you are closeby, his eyes always search for you when you are not there."

Riddhima closed her eyes to digest what Sunita had just imparted. Could it be possible? Could Armaan actually be interested in her? She opened her eyes to see understanding on Sunita's face.

"Yes beta. He might not completely love you yet. But he definitely feels more for you than just friendship," Sunita added and Riddhima hugged her again. Simply for being the wonderful woman she is and giving Riddhima hope for a future with Armaan. She did however remember every heartbreak she went through all too well.

"Mommiji. What should I do now. I love him so very much. But how do I get him to admit that he likes me too? Everytime I have thought he liked me, I got hurt. I don't wanna go through it again," Riddhima said breaking away from the hug. Sunita could see the pain of hearbreak reflected well in Riddhima's eyes.

"Don't fear when your mommiji is here beta" Sunita said bringing a smile on Riddhima's lips. "I will make everything alright. After all, it wasn't for nothing that I was given the "Cupid of the Year" award back in college! I have eons of matchmaking experience!" Sunita and Riddhima both broke out laughing at this. That resolved, they went back to making the rest of the parathas.

While working on the breakfast, Sunita asked Riddhima, making her heartbeat stop again, "So beta, when did you realize you loved my son?"

Riddhima wished Sunita didn't ask questions like that. The first shocking question session had ended well, but she was not so sure about this one. Should she tell Sunita the truth? Would it make her love seem impure in her eyes? After all, she had fallen in love with a married man. But in her defense, she had no idea that Armaan was married. Riddhima decided to be truthful. For the first time since she had fallen in love, she had shared her feelings with someone. And
it had felt good to say that YES she loved ARMAAN! out loud. Therefore, Riddhima told Sunita the truth.

"Mommiji, I have been in love with Armaan for the past 2.5 years." she added quiety, looking down at the parathas.

"WHAT???" Sunita exclaimed.

Fearful of her disapproval, Riddhima rattled on. "Please Mommiji. I didn't know he was married when I fell in love with him. And after I got to know, I tried so hard to fall out of love, but it never worked."

"What are you saying beta? I only thought you had recently fallen for him, but 2.5 years? How come none of us knew?" Sunita asked confusedly. She couldn't believe this girl infront of her had been in love with her son for the past 2.5 years and she didn't know!

"Mommiji, I fell in love with Armaan the first moment I saw him. My first love. And my first heartbreak a few seconds later when you said that he was married." Riddhima added lost in memories. It felt really good to lay her heart and suffering out in the open.

"I couldn't fall out of love, so I tried very hard to surpress those feelings. I blamed God for everything, he had made me fall for a guy he made for someone else.And I remember how much I suffered whenI saw Nikita and Armaan together in the beginning. But when I got to know Nikita, and realized what a wonderful woman she was, and what a wonderful couple they made, I realized that God was right. Armaan and Nikita belonged together."

"So you suffered in silence? Love has been very unfair to you, hasn't it? And all of us, not knowing the real situation, forced you to live here. I'm sorry beta." Sunita sighed with a touch of pity.

"No please mommiji," she protested. "Living here has been a gift. I cherish every moment spent with all of you. I would never ask for anything else."

"Beta. You are too good. I realize now that we all have taken you for granted, depending on you so much," Sunita said regretfully.

"Mommiji. If you say things like that, I will think that you don't think of me as your own," Riddhima pouted. Sunita laughed at this, giving  Riddhima another hug. It was to this touching moment that Armaan entered the kitchen.

"Mom, what's for breakfast?" he suddenly stopped at the door, seeing Riddhima. His appalling look at seeing her did not go unnoticed by Riddhima. She was mad at her fate. Now Armaan couldn't even be in the same room as her? How unfortunate was she? But if she was to go by Sunita's words, Armaan liked her. What was the truth, she was so confused.

Sunita also detected the need to escape on her son's face, therefore quickly added, "Parathas. Now come eat. It's been too long that we've had breakfast together. You  have no time for your mother." She sniffed as if hiding a tear after saying so. She knew if there was one way to get her sons to do anything, it was emotional blackmail. Of course, Armaan couldn't refuse her command after her tearful display. He gave a defeated sigh and came and sat at the dining
table. Sunita gave Riddhima a wink at this and she responded with a quick smile. Armaan picked up a newspaper that was left on the table and was seemingly engrossed in it. Riddhima and Sunita of course knew he was trying to avoid having to make conversation.

Then Riddhima added, "Mommiji, I'll go get Sunny ready for breakfast."

"No beta, let him sleep in. Today is a holiday. Poor baby. He's always up at dawn because of school. So let him be, instead Riddhima, why don't you set the table, I'll bring the food." Then the two were busy with their respective tasks. After the hot hot parathas and the dishes were on the table, Sunita and Riddhima joined Armaan at the table, Sunita sitting between the two of them and started on breakfast.

"Armaan, put the paper down and eat. What's wrong with you today? No proper good morning. No smile. Are you feeling ok?" Sunita prodded, all serious. Actually, she was gleaming with mischief and was trying hard to hide it behing a veneer of a stark smile.

"Nothing mom, I'm ok. Just tired after the event last night." Armaan had gone to a press meet/party last night involving their new fashion line. Riddhima had tried to stay up for him, but had unknowingly fallen alseep around midnight.

"Oh ok. So how was it?" Sunita asked.

"It was ok. Just like all the other ones I've been to," Armaan sighed and Riddhima's heart squeezed in sympathy. Poor guy, he did look very tired.

"Oh yea, that reminds me, Riddhima, you said you have a office party on Friday night, right? And that Rohan had wanted Armaan to come?" Sunita said directing a look at Riddhima.

Huh? Rohan had wanted Armaan to come, since when? That is, there was a party, but she didn't know that Armaan was invited. She opened her mouth to negate the statement only to be stalled by Sunita narrowing her eyes at her and leaning her head in Armaan's direction. OOOOOOOOOOOHHH!!! Now she understood what Sunita wanted.

With a smile, she added, "Yes Mommiji. Rohan wanted Armaan to attend the party. He said that Armaan helped him a lot in the beginning and well, his success with Glitz.Inc is partially due to him." Hopefully, that wasn't too over the top, Riddhima crossed her fingers.

"Maybe you can escort Riddhima to the party Armaan.." Sunita suggested slyly.

For the first time since he entered the room, Armaan looked at Riddhima. And she knew his answer even before his lips said it. "Sorry Riddhima. There is a delegation coming on Saturday, which is gonna take the whole day. I need to get everything prepared. So I don't think I can make it." He added a touch of regret to make it sound more sincere.

Yea right!! How much do you need to be prepared for a delegation that's only coming to see your office?? Really Armaan, how much more cowardly can you get?? There, look she's hurt by your answer! Good going! How is it that poor girl's fault if you are attracted to her? thatyou want to pull her across the table and kiss her senseless??? Look at those trembling lips, they are begging for your touch! ENOUGH!!!! he yelled at his conscience. He hadn't had any peace since he'd realized he desired her. A night out all alone with her, with no buffers named Sunny or Sunita? He would rather run into a fast moving train first.grr..He suddenly opened up the newspaper again, pretending to read.

Sunita registered Riddhima's hurt and Armaan's sheltered expression. Fine, the first idea didn't work. Now what should she do, she pondered and her eyes moved to a headline on the newspaper that Armaan was reading. "A jealous Lover shoots the girl in a fit of rage!" it screamed in bold black letters. And suddenly, a fantastic idea sparkled to life in her mind. THAT'S IT!!!!

"That's ok then Armaan, work comes first. So Riddhima, is that guy gonna be there, the one who asked you out?" Suddenly both Riddhima and Armaan's heads shot up in attention. 'GUY???? What guy????' both their minds questioned, Armaan's with anger and Riddhima's with confusion. Riddhima actually put her question
into words.
"Which guy mommiji?" she asked with a confused look. Ohfoh Riddhima, work with me here!!!!! Sunita was screaming in her head. This girl has to be the most innocent and naive girl in the world. Well, in a way that was good too. Maybe that's why her heart was so pure. She winked in Riddhima's direction, trying to make her understand. And it worked. Riddhima suddenly grasped what Sunita wanted to do. She hid a smile and answered Sunita.

"Oh, you mean Varun Mommiji?" Riddhima picked on the first name that came to her mind. Varun was her collegue. A sweetheart and very much in love with his fiancee. Sorry Varun, this is a matter of life and death.

VARUN!!!! That sounded arsenic to Armaan. That idiot dared to ask Riddhima out??? He will break every little bone in his body, Armaan thought furiously. Riddhima was his! Then he fought his possessiveness, don't go there!

"Yea mommiji. He will be at the party," Riddhima said sneaking a glance at Armaan. And if his narrowed eyes and pursed lips are anything to go by, their plan was working perfectly. Riddhima's heart smiled at the prospect. Armaan was really affected by this. Could it be possible that Sunita was right? She was elated.

"Actually mommiji, he asked to escort me to the party too. I said I'd tell him by tonight. And well, I think I should go with him. He's a..."
Riddhima never got a chance to finish her sentence.

"There's no need. I'll take you!" Armaan cut in aggresively. No need for some VAROOOOOONNN to 'escort' her. He could imagine what the guy would expect of her if she let him take her to the party. And he'd die before he'd let anyone else touch her.

YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!!!!!!! Sunita and Riddhima's hearts were jumping for joy.

"But Armaan, you said you were busy," Riddhima added diffidently, hiding her ecstacy. Sunita and she were sharing high fives through their eyes.

"Well. I'll get everything finished early. Rohan wanted me there, didn't he? I couldn't possibly ignore his invitation," Armaan added, trying to make it seem as if his sole interest was in supporting Rohan and not in keeping Riddhima away from Varun. Sunita and Riddhima of course saw right through him.

"Yes yes of course beta. Rohan had been a great help to us in the past year. You should defintely show our respect by going there." Sunita added solemnly, matching his tone. Inside, she was doing a jiggy. Jealousy always works! She smiled to herself.

Where was she? What's taking so long??? Armaan wondered as he paced back and forth in the living room, waiting for Riddhima to come downstairs. It was the night of the party. This was a bad idea. A Very very bad idea. He rebuked himself. What had possessed him to agree to take her to the party? It was bad enough that he had to force to keep his hands to himself when there were other people around. And now almost a night alone with her? In fact, not just one night. 3 days!! THREE!! Sunny's school just had to come up with a 3 day overnight picnic idea NOW! Seeing as how Riddhima couldn't go with Sunny due to her work obligations, Sunita had volunteered to go with him. In fact she had jumped at the chance to go, saying how she never spent any time with her favourite grandson. Armaan had of course stopped himself from mentioning that Sunny was her ONLY grandson. But damn, why did they have to go? Now it was just him and Riddhima. He was so frustrated that he could bang his head on the wall for getting stuck in this situation. He had decided. Armaan was going to send Sunny to a new school the moment he came back. Stupid school.

But he had a different problem now. A bigger one. How was he going to resist Riddhima? He was scared that he might not be able to stop himself from going closer to her. She attracted him as no woman had. His hands itched to feel her soft skin. And he was desperate to feel her close to him. And her...

"Armaan," a soft voice distracted him from his thoughts.

Riddhima..Finally, she's come down. But he suddenly wished that she'd stayed in her room. Then he wouldn't have to fight this internal battle.

"Armaan," she said again, willing Armaan to look at her. She was nervous about tonight. Sunita had convinced her that everything would be alright. She had encouraged Riddhima and given her hope. But suddenly, Riddhima couldn't put one foot infront of the other. She was trembling, with anticipation or pure nervousness, she couldn't decide. Tonight could change her whole life. Riddhima had been thankful that Sunita had given them the time to be alone but now she wished for Sunita's or Sunny's presence. It would've made everything a whole lot better. But they weren't. She had to handle this on her own. Riddhima prayed for courage. Tonight, she was going to tell Armaan how she feels. Riddhima gulped down to clear the knot formed at the back of her throat.

At the second prompting, Armaan looked up the stairs to see a Riddhima he'd never seen before. She wore a saree, that pointed out curves in all the right places She was exquisite. He had never seen her in a saree before and it was driving him crazy!!!!Armaan swallowed as he did a once-over. She had put her hair up in a bun. His mind protested this. He loved
it when her hair was open, falling down around her face in curls. His fingers itched to free her hair from the tight hold. Control Armaan, control! Then his gaze moved downwards. Her neck. OH GOD! It was tantalizingly free and beckoned for his touch. He moved his gaze a bit more downwards, only to admonish himself for checking her out like a pervert! ARMAAN, YOU WILL NOT!!!!! He suddenly moved his eyes up to her face to see a slight smile dancing on her lips. Riddhima was innocent to the ways of men, but even she could tell when a guy thought she was attractive. She blushed to see his passionate gaze roaming her body.

"Armaan.." she said in a husky voice. Armaan's eyes snapped open as if he heard her voice for the first time. Then he forced himself to get his control back.

"Let's go," He bit out as he turned around to go. She looked stunning. Tonight was gonna be a long night, he sighed defeatedly.

"Ok," Riddhima replied as she came down the stairs to follow him. She did not at all mind Armaan's grumpy mood. His eyes had given away all his feelings. Tonight was gonna be a wonderful night, she sighed happily.


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